If there’s something that public figures do that drives me totally nuts, it’s the public apology. As a matter of fact, I find most apologies more offensive than the actions that prompted them. A controversial stance, I know, but hear me out.
If you analyze public apologies, you will notice an obvious - that they follow a highly premeditated action. For example, Chrissy Teigen, the wife of musician John Legend, several years ago tweeted to a very young Hollywood starlet, Courtney Stodden, the suggestion that she should kill herself. This directed tweet was one of several personal attacks on Ms. Stodden that Teigen had fired. For the most part, the public forgot about it until last year, when it came to light, which behooved Mrs. Legend to make a public apology – not to Stodden – but to her fan base. Yuck.
In 1998, when President Bill Clinton went on national television to declare, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” meaning, of course, the intern Monica Lewinsky, he did not do so as a spontaneous act. No - he consulted with Mrs. Clinton, his many public relations experts, the White House communications director, and countless others who plotted what he would say and rehearsed him about how to say it. Much later he would apologize. Gross.
Then this weekend, actor Alec Baldwin shot the director and cinematographer of his current film, which he also executive produces. As we well know, the cinematographer died. Predictably, Baldwin went on social media to apologize. And for what? You do not “accidentally” shoot a person with a pistol. Most gun owners know that hitting a target with a pistol is no easy feat. The media claims that Baldwin was “practicing,” which I find hard to believe. First of all, why would you actually aim a gun at one person, let alone two. And secondly, if it is practice, why would you actually fire twice. He fired twice. The first shot might have been an accident. But two? Cry me a river.
Public apologies are the cringiest of statements, if you ask me.
However, if you clip a fellow shopper at the grocery store with your cart, of course, say you are sorry and ask if they are OK. Personal and instant expressions of regret to the individual you may have harmed or offended are entirely appropriate. But having to think about it first, to the point of actually crafting and editing your words, and then broadcasting it to the masses is one of the most disingenuous acts I can think of.
What are Teigen, Clinton and Baldwin seeking anyway? Is it forgiveness for their victims? Is it to maintain their good public image? Is it loss prevention, as in sponsorship income and other moneymaking deals? Whatever the reason, I highly doubt that it primarily involves the person harmed, assaulted or killed.
Personally, I refuse to hear apologies from my colleagues who feel they may have stepped too far in our work relationship. If they have “stepped too far,” they were fully aware of the path they were on in the first place. They, alone, made the decision to cross a line. And to be completely honest, I’m not ever offended when someone does. It is human nature. I really do not expect any sort of statement of remorse. But when one is offered, I find it actually infuriates me.
Once I told a coworker, “Please don’t apologize, it makes me uncomfortable.”
She responded, “But, Dan, I really do feel bad.”
“Then feel bad,” I replied, “but please leave me out of it.”
When I think about this interaction and many similar ones I have been party to in my life, the inspiration behind an apology always seems to be because the other person feels bad. Guess what? I’m not here to make them feel better; especially after they intentionally went into the danger zone.
Some of my friends have called me on this, telling me that God would want me to forgive. Honestly, what’s forgiveness have to do with any of this? Forgiveness is a private thing. Forgiveness is something that you feel and accept in your own heart and soul, and that is what matters. Telling someone you forgive them so they can feel better about their wayward intentions is not forgiveness. It is co-dependency, plain and simple. You’re making them feel better for their crime? Isn’t this the same as buying booze for a drunk, or embracing the spouse who gave you a black eye?
For the record, I avoid all interactions that I sense are going in the direction of potential offensiveness so that a misstep and apology are inevitable. I feel it is a kinder act than a hollow “I’m sorry,” and an even hollower, “I forgive you.” Prevention is always the best medicine, after all. If I know that a person has different political views than I do, I simply do not engage. In fact, I have friends who have different ideas who I maintain friendships with, but we do not ever have dinner or socialize. Why? Because that’s where the trouble happens. I respect them enough to not create an atmosphere for conflict. I don’t think this is anti-social; rather, it is a determined keeping of the peace. This is something that Americans seemed to have forgotten.
In my opinion, avoiding conflict is something worth the offense. But if you are going to do something that might offend people, then don’t follow up with contrite nonsense. Live with the consequences of your actions, and learn from them.